New recording posted

I’ve posted a recording of “Monument,” the first movement from my in-progress Sinfonia, on my MySpace page. It was read earlier this week by the UMKC Conservatory Orchestra, who performed it admirably (the recording is spliced together from various takes done over the course of a mere 20 minutes–the first time the orchestra saw the music!). Many thanks to the orchestra and to Brandon K. Brown for his conducting work.

Movements 2 though 4 are in the works, and the whole Sinfonia should be completed in the spring.

De Profundis premiere

Rehearsals have been underway for the past week and a half, and De Profundis is starting to sound like an actual piece of music (!) — encouraging. I have received several comments about the impressiveness of having actually corralled fifteen people into one room in order to make it happen, but better yet I’ve gotten comments from several performers about how much they like the piece. It is very difficult, so these comments are that much more appreciated when I know performers are sweating over some sections.

So I invite you who are nearby to the premiere this coming Monday, April 7, at 8pm. The performance will be in Sursa Hall at Ball State University as the opening of the Student Composers Forum. Given the distance and the Monday-ness of the concert, I don’t imagine I’ll see many (or any) people from out of town, but I will have a recording of the concert, and with luck also a video to share.

Because I’ve been asked by a couple of people about the meaning of it all, I’ve pasted my program notes for De Profundis below. Enjoy.

Continue reading De Profundis premiere

One down

One semester, that is.

Exam week is officially and finally over! The last bits were an exam for Psychology of Music on Thursday evening and a counterpoint project and analysis due last night. That project was a four-voice fugue, which I wrote for wind quartet, and on which I actually started over mid-week after a while of struggling with too many loose ends. The end product is, I believe, considerably better. Tracy and I have joked recently about the Dirt Devil “Kone” commercials, and how I should do my own (with equal pretension, of course): “I’m Scott Blasco, and this is Fugue.”

De Profundis is very nearly done. I have a tentative final barline, but not everything up to it is entirely complete. It will be soon, though, and I have some performers interested in it already. I’m hoping for a March performance. Feedback from people who have heard what I have has been pretty uniformly positive, and I have one person down in Texas waiting for the final product to consider for his new music ensemble (more on that when/if it materializes).

That’s my story. Where I have been out of communication when I should have been in, that would be why. Sorry about that.

fin

A pictorial reprise:
Tracy and Scott actually do rule this time

I’m scratching “theology student” from my little “about” deal over there. It’s hard to believe, but the wife and I are both done with everything for Fuller. Everything has been mailed off, e- and otherwise, and any theology reading following today will be uncoerced.

The big final paper took me most of yesterday and today to finish (not to mention the past few weeks of slogging through Balthasar and Hart); but, despite my earlier predictions, I don’t think it is actually all that bad. Parts are even good, although given another day/week/month I would have polished/expanded/rewritten others.

My attention turns now to catching up with work I was able to postpone for BSU, which I expect will be comparatively relaxed and easy going. I hope to finish my De Profundis before the end of the semester and get started on something new, and it looks like an arrangement of one movement from Separations (which I have extracted as the standalone Elegy) will be given a performance in November by the BSU graduate string quartet.

Going to Fuller was an amazing experience and a great blessing, and I am very grateful to have been able to do it. All the same, with it now complete, I’m exquisitely happy to be diving into my musical life again with both feet. This is what I studied theology in order to do: be a musician, a composer, with a strong theological foundation to my work.

I hope, too, that I can fill out this blog according to its original purpose. I’ve written a lot about theology over the past two years, and less about music. It is, after all, new mus(ings)ic, and perhaps I can better unite the two now that my attention will be differently focused.

So congratulations to my lovely wife for finishing a day ahead of me–and what the heck, I’ll congratulate myself for finishing, as well. Onward!

New news

I’m getting slow on the updates, here. Sorry ’bout that.

Obviously, T and I survived Arts Fest two weeks back. It was a success, a good time in general although rather stressful at the time (especially with both of us sick all week).  Of particular note was the use of the Mass I wrote last summer in the mid-week chapel service.  It was the first performance of any of my music here at Fuller, and was well received.  Now that things have quieted down, I’m thinking I might ask the choir about doing it once more for a recording.

We’re pretty much done with Art Concerns work now, just wrapping up the year. We threw a “thank you” party on Friday for all those who helped out over Arts Fest, which was also fun. We used to throw parties all the time back in Michigan, and entertaining in our home has got to be a favorite thing of ours. Now we’re thinking one more this summer before we leave for other (possibly greener) shores.

What of those other shores? Well, that’s the “news” part up there. Last week, on my birthday, I got the letter informing me that I have been accepted to Ball State University’s doctoral program in composition! To say that it was welcome news would be something of an understatement. We’ve been praying for some direction for next year for a while now, as we’re nearing the end of the program here at Fuller with no open options for what comes next… until now, when suddenly we do.

I’m still waiting to hear from one other program (Catholic University of America, in D.C.), and I’ll need to know about what aid is available at either one before I can think about registration. I’m also waiting on a teaching job to which I applied two weeks ago. Northwestern College (in northwest Iowa, not Chicago) has an opening in music theory, percussion, and music technology–all three of them things which I have taught in the past. I don’t know what the likelihood is of getting the job, since they would prefer a doctorate (which I don’t yet have), and my classroom teaching experience is mainly in the technology part above. I’ve taught all three in high school age music camps, and tutored theory college students while I was in grad school, but only for music tech have I taught in a college classroom setting. Sooooo… I don’t know. It would be fantastic for many reasons, but for now I’ll just have to wait and see.

Finally, without going into too much detail, my thesis is proceeding nicely.  As you may recall, I am setting the De Profundis (Psalm 130 in Latin) for an ensemble of vocal trio, wind trio, string trio, rock trio, and piano.  I tend to write very long text settings (long phrases, lots of repetition, and so on), so with the roughly 1/3 to 1/2 of the text I have set I am probably nearing the ten minute mark.  It will be a pretty good sized chunk of work, and I’m very pleased with how it is taking shape thus far.  Here’s hoping for a performance this summer after it’s done.

More later.

Back to it

Almost a month since last post. Oops.

Classes for the spring quarter started today, in which I’ll be continuing my thesis work and taking two classes: Ethics of Bonhoeffer (with the mighty Glen Stassen), and Hebrew Prophets. Tracy and I are taking the Bonhoeffer together, as well as the thesis cohort (which meets seldom and informally). Last quarter I took my first pass/fail class, which took a bit of pressure off during a particularly stressful couple of months, and I’m repeating the formula this quarter with the Prophets class. Normally I’m a perfectionist about class work and such, so I’ll probably end up doing the same work as I would for a grade… still, it’s a nice load off.

And I’ll need it this quarter! Late in April, the Arts Concerns Committee (which Tracy and I chair together) holds its annual Arts Festival, a week-long series of events, art galleries, and so on. It’s a mountain of work to organize, but it’s also very rewarding to see come together.

More to the point, I’m supposed to finish my thesis this quarter (although I have a potential grace period into the summer, I’d prefer not to take it). I keep promising to write about that, and then not doing so. The idea for the thesis project in this program is to begin integrating the theology we’ve studied with the art which we theoretically already practice. For me, obviously, that’s music. So my project is a fairly large-scale setting of the De Profundis–Psalm 130 in the English Bible. I had initially wanted to interject settings of poetry between the stanzas of the Psalm, but suitable public-domain lament poetry is nearly impossible to find, so I scrapped that plan. That turns out to be a good thing, because it would have been that much more work to try to finish on time. Maybe later I’ll explain the theological grounding of the work beyond the sacred text. There’s a lot more, really, and it ties in with classes I’ve taken here.

The setting is a new experience for me. I’ve set text, but not in Latin. That’s not such a big deal, though. The bigger deal is my instrumentation, for piano and four trios: voice trio (SAT), string trio, wind trio (flute, clarinet, horn), and rock trio (guitar, bass, drumset). I’ve never composed anything for rock instrumentation, although I’ve written songs within a band structure. I’m attempting to avoid falling into writing rock music for “classical” instruments, or vice versa–a problem I always had with Gunther Schuller’s “Third Stream” work, wherein he claimed to be fusing classical and jazz, but in my opinion actually ended up with one of two results: jazz played by an orchestra, or an incongruous pastiche of casual-sounding swing and dissonant orchestral moments. I’m sure some people would have my head over that. So be it, but I’ve never liked his music.

At any rate, I’m attempting to balance the two worlds, although it is primarily a contemporary composed work. I haven’t gotten close to as much work done on it as I would have liked to at this point, however, and it will be a challenge to keep up with my own timeline for completion. Getting it performed is another task. I know people for almost every instrument here, but getting them all in the same room enough times to rehearse and perform might be a challenge. When we did “In C” last year I had the same problem, but as long as people knew what they were doing it didn’t particularly matter which instruments showed up for a rehearsal. This one’s a bit different.

I’m also back to it on the doctoral program front. Because my time was so tight in the fall, I cut back my list of intended applications from nine to three, and applied to the three for which I had the most work done and was able to complete. Having not gotten into any of those three, I went back to my list of possible schools to see what deadlines I might not have missed. There weren’t many, but there were a couple, and I added a couple more by looking around again. So I now have applications in to Ball State University in Indiana and Catholic University of America in D.C. These might be followed by University of Arizona, but they don’t seem too communicative over there. West Virginia University is another possibility, but although I haven’t missed their deadline (there is none), I believe their grad spots in composition are filled at this point. Too bad, it looks like a good program.

That’s my update. Other things are going along to one degree or another. We had spring break last week, and drove up the coast to just south of Big Sur, looked at the ocean, saw a bunch of seals, some otters, and a couple whale spouts, and then drove back.  Tracy posted some pics.  It was nice, but too short (as breaks tend to be). I can’t wait to graduate and get out of here, SoCal is not my bag.

Update: a step back, some steps forward

I’ve not been keeping up on blogging lately, either writing or reading. For shame! I suppose my online activities take a distant… something-eth… place to things such as homework, family, and sanity (in short supply of late). At the same time, I did strongly imply an update on my activities a couple of posts back, and the few of you who read this might actually want to read that update. Sadly, this is not it. But it is a different update!

I received an email from my publisher recently, informing me of a couple of upcoming performances. My Concerto for Marimba and Chamber Orchestra, which has not previously been performed, will receive two performances this spring in Pennsylvania (both in the reduced version for soloist, two pianos, and three percussionists). Sadly I will not be attending either of them, seeing as how I live in California, am a full-time student, and have somewhere in the neighborhood of ZERO dollars for plane tickets. Feel like donating some money to the cause? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

The first performance will be by Richard Lee Bono, a student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Rich is a senior music ed major, and will be performing the concerto on his recital at the end of March. He emailed me to introduce himself and ask if I had anything to say–and got perhaps a longer response than he bargained for! It was interesting to go through the score and remember what I was thinking when I wrote the concerto, which was nearly four years ago now. Perhaps more interesting yet was recounting the theological content built only half-consciously into the structure of the work. With eyes and language gained over the past two years, I was better able to articulate it than I would have been able to during the composing process itself–some encouragement in the artistic wasteland of a full time theological education!

The second performance, in early April, will be by Frank Kumor, professor of percussion at Kutztown University. I keep intending to write Dr. Kumor an email and introduce myself, say hello and such, but have not yet done so. I am particularly excited about this performance given Kumor’s long experience as a performer, and commitment to new music. There is apparently potential for a further (very significant) performance coming out of this as well, but I’ll save that for the future to see if it materializes.

I also talked to my friend and former percussion teacher Judy Moonert today. She was excited to hear about these performances, especially since the concerto is dedicated to her and she has not had the time to perform it (Judy keeps busy by playing in three professional ensembles, one of which frequently plays in NYC, on top of her position as professor of percussion at Western Michigan University… she’s a busy lady). But she did premiere my marimba quartet, Momentia/Minutia, with her percussion ensemble in 2005, then performed it again in 2006, and apparently there is a possibility for another performance late this year… also one which I will wait to see what happens before getting too excited about. I should be getting recordings of the previous performances soon, to which I am looking forward.

I miss percussion. I miss performing. I’ve been listening to a bit of percussion music lately, but it’s unfortunately difficult to find very much that’s really exciting musically. Composers tend either to be intimidated by writing for percussion (so they don’t), or to write really “typecast” music–high on bombast and exciting rhythms, low on musical content. It’s too bad, and it’s a big reason why I’ve written as much percussion music as I have, despite the fear of being typecast myself as a niche composer. But I love the instruments, and I write well for them because I’ve spent so much time as a performer myself, so in many ways it is a very natural fit. I was looking over some sketches I had for a piano work recently, and realized that they are perhaps even better fitted for marimba… so who knows, there may be something new in the works soon.

That’s a long post of stuff you’re probably not all that interested in. But it feels really good to write it. To be able to write it. It’s nice to feel like a composer, not a theologian. I can’t wait to be back in a music program (God willing).

Actually coming soon: an update on what I am currently composing, why, how, and what I intend to do about it! (Plus: minutiae of my life). For now you’ll just have to wait…